When Tristan King first spotted the recently-closed Joiners Arms pub in Retford, Nottingham, in January 2011 he knew it was exactly the opportunity he’d been searching for. But despite having bought two other stores over a 14-year period in and around the Retford area, nothing could have prepared him for the emotional roller coaster of this particular purchase. It took one year of closed bids, bank negotiation, worry and hope before he and his business partner - his sister Rebecca - could finally put their signatures on the property and call it their own.
He was first attracted to the property by its location and its proximity to his other stores: “Once I’d identified the area, which really needed a modern convenience store, it was about finding the right property within the right budget.”
He was all too wary of spending too much on making a property fit his needs. He adds: “As soon as the pub closed I knew that the floor space would be suited to a convenience store.”
Unfortunately for Tristan, the pub had actually been a successful one, so it was never going to be a cut-price quick sale. In fact, landlords Trust Inns hadn’t thought of selling the property before Tristan approached them, but when he did they started to look around for other buyers to join the negotiations.
Name: Tristan King
Location: Retford, Nottinghamshire
Size: 1,300sq ft
Opened: May 2012
Previously: a pub
Meanwhile, when it came to getting the banks involved, like many other retailers Tristan found that times had changed since his last purchase: “It used to be that if the banks believed that a person could do something with a business they would lend them the money,” he says. “Now you need the research to back you up. We did a CACI [location and demographics] report with Londis and I’m absolutely certain that without that report the banks would not have lent the money. There was nothing in the report that I could not have guessed, but gut feelings aren’t good enough for the banks anymore.” Even with the report it took 12 weeks for the banks to say yes.
The landlords had decided to go down the closed bids route, a nerve jangling time for any purchaser, but with a big deposit at stake it’s especially difficult for the business buyer: “The key is to not get too emotionally involved and avoid the temptation to carry on upping bids until it’s not viable.”
On three separate occasions, he thought he’d lost it, but the property was eventually sold to Tristan for an undisclosed sum and contracts were signed in January this year. A 12-week conversion meant yet more spending - “you seem to be signing cheques every day”. But finally the store opened in May. “The early signs are good,” he says, “but it’s been a steep learning curve and I’m definitely ready for my holiday.”•